THE ROMNEY RING BRINGS NEWS

“Hello, Josh. What time is it?” called Bud, sticking his head out of
the window of the spare room. The sun was high in the sky, and Bud,
just awake, had caught sight of his friend crossing the dooryard with a
milk pail in his hand.
“Time the milkin’ was over,” answered Josh. “But I ain’t had hardly no
time yet. I been over to see her, Bud. She’s a jim dandy.”
Bud, in Josh’s rough but freshly ironed night shirt, leaned further
out of the window. His eyes were yet blinking, but the mention of
“her” brought him to his full senses at once. He had slept late, worn
with the exertion and strain of the night before, and Mr. Camp had not
awakened him. The near-by mill was already groaning with its daily
grist, and breakfast was undoubtedly over.
“She ain’t broke anywhere is she?” asked Bud eagerly.
“How’d I know? I been down there to the lake, but you don’t reckon I
been over where she is? But she looks fine as silk.”
“You’ve got to help me to-day, Josh,” went on Bud, beginning to skin
off his chum’s long night gown.
Josh had come up to the window and was peering into the sacred
precincts of the spare room.
“That’s what I calklated,” he said, setting down his steaming milk
pail. “An’ that’s why I didn’t dig over in the mud when I was down to
see her. We got trompin’ enough ’thout lookin’ for more.”
The bedroom was cool and grateful; the high feather bed, with its blue
and white tasseled counterpane looked more than tempting, but Bud had
only two thoughts now–he smelled frying ham, and he was anxious to see
whether his airship was injured.
“Where’s my clothes?” he exclaimed, looking for them in vain.
“Oh, yes, I forgot,” explained Josh. “They’re dryin’. You can’t wear
them pants afore noon. I dunno as yo’ kin wear ’em then.”
“But my shoes?”
“Them’s as bad. We got oats in ’em dryin’ ’em out. Mother washed your
pants first thing this mornin’.”
Bud laughed.
“That’s mighty good o’ you folks. But I can’t stay here. I got a lot
to do. I mean _we_ have.”
“We figured that all out,” laughed Josh. “Your things’ll be dry by
noon. This mornin’ yo’ kin have my plow shoes an’ ole mill pants.”
When Bud emerged from the dustless and spotless bedroom to go to the
basin bench out near the well, he was attired as if for a masquerade.
Josh’s pants were so long that they had to be rolled up, and his old
shoes were much too large. After a good wash up and an elaborate
combing of his hair, he responded to Mrs. Camp’s smiling call to
breakfast.
“It certainly is good fur sore eyes,” commented Josh’s mother as Bud
sat down to breakfast–all alone–“to see Bud Wilson agin. I ain’t seen
hide n’r hair o’ you in ten year, I reckon. An’ how air ye?”
Bud, between mouthfuls of fried ham, biscuits and pancakes, told of his
life since he went to live with Attorney Stockwell. It took some time.
“An’ who’s on your pa’s farm?” asked Mrs. Camp.
Bud shook his head.
“I guess it’s been sold,” he ventured.
“Must a brought a good price,” suggested Mrs. Camp. “It was a good
piece o groun’, as I recollec’.”
Bud shook his head again.
“I don’t know,” he said, his mouth full of cakes and maple syrup, “like
as not. Only I didn’t see none o’ the money ef it was.”
Mrs. Camp eyed him closely. Then she shook her head in turn.
“I reckon ye ain’t old enough yet to be told. But somepins comin’ to
you, Bud. Don’t ye fergit that. It was a good piece o’ land and it’d
bring a good price.”
“Oh, that’ll work out all right,” laughed Bud, with boyish
indifference–but drinking in every one of Mrs. Camp’s words just the
same. “This charm is goin’ to bring me good luck.”
Then he explained the part that Madame Zecatacas, the Gypsy Queen,
had played in his recent experiences, and exhibited his ring. At that
moment, Josh’s father, Mr. Camp–“Stump” Camp–as he was generally
known, entered the kitchen from the mill. He was a small man, with
large and bushy tobacco-stained whiskers and considerable curiosity.
Bud repeated the story of the ring.
“Jack _Stanley_,” exclaimed Mr. Camp with a hearty guffaw. “Why, I’m
sprized, Bud, ye don’t know him. He ain’t no gypsy, an’ he ain’t no
Stanley, ’though all them horse traders give out they’re gypsies, an’
most o’ ’em say they’re Stanleys. You know him, Mother,” he said,
turning to his wife. “He’s ole Bill Reed’s boy ’at run off with Red
Stanley’s gang. I knowed ’em all. Red Stanley’s wife set up fur a great
fortune teller, an’ she had a sign sayin’ she was Madame Somepin or
Ruther.”
“Madame Zecatacas?” interrupted Bud.
“That’s it,” said Mr. Camp. “I seen her three years ago to the fair.
I knowed ’em all. They traded through this country a good many years.
They used to camp over nigh Little Town. That’s where John Reed, old
Bill Reed’s boy, fell in with Stanley’s girl, an’ followed the gang
away.”
“Shore,” commented Mrs. Camp, “I recollec’. And want it ole man Reed
’at sold that sixty acres to Bud’s pa?”


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Mr. Camp knit his brows a moment, expectorated slowly into the wood
box, and then nodded his head.
“How ’bout that, Bud?” he exclaimed suddenly. “How did that trouble
’bout your pa’s farm ever come out?”
“I didn’t know there was any trouble about it,” answered Bud. “What do
you mean?”
Mr. Camp looked surprised. Then he slapped his knee.
“Bud,” he almost chuckled, “you hang onto that ring and hang on to John
Reed, or ‘Jack Stanley’ as he calls hisself. Ef I ain’t mistook, he kin
do ye some good.”
Bud was alert.
“I feel it in my bones he is goin’ to help me somehow. What is it?”
“I kin see that lawyer as took ye in never told you. But everybody
up this way knows the facks. I ain’t desirin’ to make no trouble fur
nobody, and may be ’tain’t my say, but facks is facks.”
“You mean ’bout the deed?” interrupted the rotund Mrs. Camp, who was
one of those country women who know what is going on around them.
Mr. Camp nodded his head. Then he scratched his chin through his
luxuriant whiskers and remarked, in a slow, judicial tone:
“Bud, when your pa bought that sixty acres o’ ole man Reed, he give
eighty dollars a acre fur it. Bein’ a easy-goin’ man not used to that
sort o’ business, he took the deed and stuck it away when he ought a’
took it to the courthouse an’ recorded it. One day when your ma’s
cousin, Lawyer Stockwell, was visitin’ him and he was complainin’, they
took out the papers an’, lo an’ behold, they discivered that Mrs. Reed,
ole Bill’s wife, hadn’t jined in the transfer.”
“The lawyer took the paper, as your pa told me more’n onct, fur I
knowed him well, an’ set out to get Mrs. Reed’s name to the dockyment.
That’d been easy enough like as not on’y it was jest about the time
Mrs. Reed and Bill fell out and sepyrated. She’d gone to Indinoplis
and afore the lawyer could ketch her, she was off to Calyfornee. Mr.
Stockwell went clean out there to find her onct, but he never did.”
Bud remembered the time. It was just after his father’s death. But his
foster father had never told him that the trip concerned him or his
father’s farm.
“What difference did that make?” asked Bud.
“Made jest this. Ole Bill Reed died, and there wa’nt really no good
deed to your pa. He was dead, too, then. The place was yours because
your pa paid for it with hard cash, but the title was bad. Ain’t no one
ever goin’ to buy the place from you–an’ its worth a hundred dollars a
acre now o’ any man’s money, lessen you go get your title cleared up.”
Bud smiled.
“That all sounds right,” he said, “and I reckon I ought to understand
it. But I don’t.”
Mr. Camp laughed, too, and looked at his wife.
“Lawyer Stockwell understands it all right, mother,” he said chuckling.
“It’s this way, Son. There’s only two persons who kin give you a clean
title to that land which you heired from your pa. An’ that’s them as is
Ole Bill Reed’s heirs. An’ ef you want to know who them air, it’s Jack
Stanley an’ his wife.”
Bud sat up trying to understand.
“Ef any one has claims on that farm besides you,” Mr. Camp continued,
“it’s John Reed and his wife. An’ they ain’t got no genoine claim
except to do the fair and square thing and that’s what ole Bill and his
wife didn’t. Ef they’re your friends, they’ll do it. An’ when they do
an’ give you a deed to what your pa hones’ly paid fur, Bud Wilson’ll
have as clean an’ tidy a bit o’ ground as they is in Scott County.”
The boy’s brow was wrinkled.
“You say my foster father understands? What do you mean? How is he
interested in all this?”
“Far be it from me to make reflections,” said Mr. Camp slowly, “but
lawyers has more tricks an’ one. I ain’t sayin’ he’d do it. But what
ef he or some one else’d buy that sixty acres o’ Jack Stanley. Where’d
you come in?”
“I see,” answered Bud, “but I can’t think you’re right. Any way,” he
added, “I’ll keep my eyes open. As for this,” and he whirled the dull,
brassy circle on his finger, “I guess it’s workin’ all right. It ain’t
brought me anything bad yet–exceptin’ my muddy pants and the swamp.”
Mr. Camp’s return to the house had been prompted by curiosity. When Bud
had asked a few more questions about his father and the farm, Mr. Camp
suggested that it would be well to hurry to the stranded aeroplane.
“Will you help me?” asked Bud eagerly.
“Will we?” answered Josh, speaking for his father and himself. “When a
real show comes right out here in our front yard without no charge to
see it–I guess we’ll see it ef we have to shet down the mill.”
“It’s most as good as goin’ to the fair,” chuckled his father.
Mrs. Camp gave a sigh of disappointment.
“You ain’t a goin’ to miss it, Mrs. Camp,” spoke up Bud promptly. “I’m
goin’ to start back to town about twenty minutes of three o’clock. You
be waitin’ out in the yard. I’ll sail right over the house. Don’t be
scared if I come close to you. I’ll do it so you can see the airship.”
“I jes can’t nacherly believe it,” exclaimed the good-natured woman.
“And if you’ll let me, I’ll come back and stay with you again
to-night,” added Bud. “That is, if you’ll let me pay for my board an’
lodgin’.”
“Pay?” exclaimed Mrs. Camp indignantly.
“Come on and quit your foolish talk,” added her husband.
A curious and laughable sight in his borrowed clothes, Bud, Josh and
Mr. Camp set out for the lake.
“She’s right down among the cattails,” explained Josh. “An’ mighty nigh
in the pond. You had a close call a gittin’ ducked.”
This was true, as Bud soon discovered. The day was fine, with only
a light September haze in the air. Standing on the slope of the
hill–which completely concealed the machine from a possible traveler
on the wood road–Bud and the two Camps began speculating on the best
way to approach the aeroplane. No one was anxious to plow through the
deep mire of the swamp unless it was necessary. The solution was easy.
The skiff and flat boat were moored at the bottom of the pond near the
closed head-gate. To reach these, there was a board path or footway
running along the flume from the creek. A half mile detour brought the
party there. In a few moments more, they were all at the dam and the
boats. Bud had explained his plans for moving the aeroplane by loading
it onto the boats and floating it to the head of the flume. Mr. Camp
reckoned the project feasible.
But, when the two boats had been brought as near the stranded machine
as they would float, and Bud, stripped of his trousers, underclothes,
shoes and socks, had crawled through the weeds and mud to the airship,
his fears were realized. Although the starboard end of the car was
partly buried in the mud, the keen-eyed lad at once discovered that the
bottom cross piece of the frame was broken.
Making further examination of the craft, his eye fell upon the gasoline
tank. A sudden alarm came over him. He knew he had enough fuel to carry
him safely back to the fair-grounds; but that would not suit all his
needs. He meant to return to the fair, give the advertised exhibition
by flying three times around the race-track, and then escape once more.
If he could do this, he would keep the aeroplane hidden until the next
day, which was Saturday. When he returned that day, he would come down.
The fair would be over.
But to do this meant more gasoline. He returned to his waiting friends
and reported. There was a hasty consultation, and this program was
agreed upon: Josh was to hook up a horse to the spring wagon and
proceed at once to Little Town for five gallons of gasoline; Bud was
to return to the mill and secure a few pieces of wood and some wire to
repair the broken cross piece; Mr. Camp was to stay by the aeroplane
and clear away the interfering weeds as well as he could.
“And,” volunteered Mr. Camp, as the boys left, “sense we’re all a
goin’ to be workin’ purty hard this mornin’ tell Mother to get us up
a pot-pie dinner with mashed potatoes. Ef any one asts fur me at the
mill, tell ’em we’re shet down.”